TIM PAWSEY Tim Pawsey is a well-travelled food and wine writer at various publications, including WHERE Vancouver, Quench, SIP, Vitis, The Alchemist and others. Find him at hiredbelly.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @hiredbelly and Facebook @TheHiredBelly.

As a sign of how well BC Syrah fares compared to other regions in the world, this year’s highly regarded Decanter World Wine Awards bestowed gold and silver medals on several BC Syrahs.

B C Syrah is on a roll. As more consumers discover its often intense and luscious flavours, wineries are increasing plantings to meet the demand. Thirty years ago, when the new era of BC wine was just beginning, Bordeaux varieties like Merlot and Cabernet dominated red vinifera plantings. However, with a few successful trials of Syrah, more vintners took note of the Rhône-grown variety—especially given its success in Australia, where it was referred to as Shiraz. Though Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon remain the Okanagan’s leading red varieties, in 2022 the Syrah harvest almost tied fourth- place Pinot Noir. As a sign of how well BC Syrah fares compared to other regions in the world, this year’s highly regarded Decanter World Wine Awards bestowed gold and silver medals on several BC Syrahs. We sat down with six BC winemakers to understand how the unique geography of their vineyards influences the wine. DEREK KONTKANEN, SUNROCK VINEYARDS At Sunrock Vineyards, the vines occupy a hot site beneath a big rock on the eastern edge of Black Sage Bench. Winemaker Derek Kontkanen says the rock face absorbs all the daytime heat and radiates it back out at night. The

resulting super-ripe wines are definitely more in a Shiraz (Australian Syrah) style. He says that Syrah “is one of those varieties that you can push in the vineyard. We generally look for 25 percent shrivel on the grapes to get that real peppery character before we harvest”—making Sunrock’s Shiraz a great match with pepper steak! CORRIE KREHBIEL, MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE One of those coveted Decanter gold medals went to Mission Hill’s Reserve Syrah 2020, which delights winemaker Corrie Krehbiel. “We’re understanding more about what varieties grow well and where, and starting to home in on them,” she says. Her Reserve Syrah comes from Jagged Rock Vineyard, near Oliver, where the vines are also tucked up against the rock face. In a nod to northern Rhône wines, Krehbiel adds “a touch of Viognier” to bring floral notes and plushness. Ultimately, though, says Krehbiel, “it’s all about focusing on blue fruit and luscious tannins.” Her favourite pairings with Mission Hill Syrah? “I love it with grilled vegetables such as eggplant and pepper, plus with just about any red meat.” MOHAN GILL, BORDERTOWN VINEYARDS On the northwestern edge of Osoyoos at Bordertown Vineyards and Estate

Winery, Mohan Gill has also been keeping his finger on Syrah’s pulse. His Syrah comes from an east-facing slope in the home vineyard and a site on the Canada-US border. Both sites are gravelly, well drained and hot—ideal for ripening Syrah. Bordertown’s oak-fermented and barrique-aged wine also leans towards a Rhône style. In recent years, as consumers have appreciated the Syrah— especially paired with grilled red meats and hearty stews—Gill has planted more. EVAN SAUNDERS, BLASTED CHURCH VINEYARDS Syrah is a variety that translates the place very well, explains Blasted Church winemaker Evan Saunders. He sources fruit from the east and west sides of Osoyoos and feels the variety is well suited to the Okanagan— “except for the winter we just had!” Due to winter vine damage, several growers are expecting much smaller harvests this year. While the conditions have been particularly challenging for Syrah, “hopefully it was just a blip,” Saunders says. He feels fruit from the sandier west-side sites tends to yield Syrah’s delicate and floral notes while the rockier east‑side sites deliver the variety’s meaty, gamey characteristics. Smart pairings include roast lamb and grilled sausages.



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